Senior Couple on Computer

Work hard, plan your retirement and don’t forget the digital world.

People can behave responsibility by working with an estate planning attorney to create a will, power of attorney and health care proxy as well as other important documents to protect their heirs. However, it is important to remember it is a different world now requiring that digital assets be included in that list, according to The Press of Atlantic City in “Estate planning for your digital and cyber assets“.

That’s because today we have an entirely new type of property that must be dealt with in estate planning. Unlike tangible property that people have been handing down for centuries, this is a relatively new kind of property: digital assets. One of the problems with digital assets is that, unlike paper documents, your family members can’t simply sift through decades of physical records to find out what you own. The online world is endless, and if they don’t know what websites to look at, there’s simply no way that they can find all your digital assets.

What is a digital asset? They include such things as:

  • Mobile devices, like cell phones, laptops and tablets
  • Email accounts—all of them
  • Social media profiles including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Sites that contain music, photos and other personal information
  • Your personal desktop
  • Online banking, investment accounts and cybercurrency
  • Online gaming accounts
  • Online bill paying, like utilities, EZ-Pass and any automatic payments
  • Websites or blogs

You’ll want to let your executor know what you want done with your digital assets. Some platforms have the ability for you to express your wishes regarding your digital assets, like Facebook. What do you want to happen to your pages when you are gone? Do you want people to be able to see your pages, or to post on them? Would you want them to be taken down a month after you pass, or left up permanently?

You’ll need to list out all your digital assets, your username and your passwords and provide a directive to specifically state what you want to happen to each website. Yes, it will take time and it may be tedious, but imagine how challenging it will be for your family members to try to track down all your digital assets. Speak with your estate planning attorney as to how to share this information—but don’t put it in a will, because your will becomes a public document if your estate goes through probate (which happens to most wills).

Just as you have taken the time to have an estate plan created, making sure to have a digital assets plan is a gift to your loved ones. With these details taken care of, your family will be able to focus their attention on taking care of each other, dealing with your estate and going through the grieving process. You’ll have spared them a lot of additional stress and expense.

An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your specific circumstances and include digital assets.

Reference: The Press of Atlantic City (July 4, 2019) “Estate planning for your digital and cyber assets

For more information on asset preservation and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.